Skin-care company Kiehl's hosted its eighth annual LifeRide, a weeklong motorcycle ride across the country to raise money and awareness for HIV/AIDS research. Since it began, participants have ridden more than 12,000 miles and raised more than $1.7 million for the amfAR Foundation for AIDS Research.
This year's race began July 31 in Minneapolis and journeyed through the Midwest south to Nashville, where the ride concluded Aug. 7. Locally, LifeRide stopped at the Kiehl's store on Michigan Avenue on Aug. 3, complete with an event catered by Bad Hunter Executive Chef Dan Snowden and a meet-and-greet with this year's celebrity riders, including Kiehl's President Chris Salgardo and actor Gilles Marini ( Switched at Birth; Sex and the City ).
Kiehl's has supported HIV/AIDS research since the mid-'80s, Salgardo said. He decided to follow his grandmother's advice: "If you can give back, you should give back," and begin LifeRide in 2010.
"We're breaking stigmas and we're educating people," Salgardo said. "Because of opioid usage, the rate of HIV in young adults under 24 is rising. That's crazy because there's a pill you can take. People have to get tested. We're still dealing with this. People have to realize: If you have the health care, if you have the medications, you can manage it. If you don't, if will kill you, plain and simple."
Marini got involved with LifeRide seven years ago, and he thinks AIDS needs more than just treatment; it needs a cure. Who's doing anything for AIDS nowadays?" he said. "We went really really far... and then pharmaceutical companies went, 'It's like herpes. You're going to have to live with it the rest of your lives and pay us.' Where is the cure? You don't live with AIDS, you survive."
Motorcycles have long been a staple in Kiehl's stores across the country. Salgardo said they not only symbolize the spirit of adventure within us all, but they also add an unexpected element to HIV/AIDS fundraising.
"There's something about it that's kind of a macho sport," he said. "What I love about it is, you come in and see all these guys on bikes, and then all of a sudden you hit them with the HIV message. It's not what you expect. So you get their attention. Listen, I'll fly a helicopter if it'll get people talking about this disease."